THIS (Elizabeth Taylor’s) was the philosophy and attitude that kept me functional through my 26 years of untreated Bipolar Disorder, Alcoholism, other Addictions, and emotional trauma.
I forced myself to get up, forced myself to put one foot in front of the other, forced myself not to let it get to me. I fought. I cried. I shook. I ignored deep emotional pain. And I went about the business of SURVIVING. It worked. But it was miserable.
It wasn’t the business of LIVING. And, as I discovered in 1993, it wasn’t the only way.
White knuckling it and gritting my teeth through anxiety, fear, shame, depression, self-hatred, dry-drunkdom, isolation, rage, suicidality, agonizing emotional pain, and more were my modus operandi for many years.
Each day I would have to muster varying degrees of courage and employ an array of maladaptive, self-medicating behaviors just to do basic activities like going to the grocery store, going to work at a very basic job, having conversations with people, paying bills, going to the laundromat, returning phone calls, going to family gatherings, sitting in waiting rooms, being in public spaces, and more.
Given the ferocity and relentlessness of my inner demons, and my lack of adaptive coping skills, I was a wounded man surviving in a wilderness he did not understand with a very inadequate set of tools.
Thank God I found another way. It’s called Recovery. Which, for me has included consistent work with a therapist, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, medication, a strong support network, acceptance of my illnesses and the work I need to do, AA, 12 Step work, the Red Letters, EMDR, prayer, exercise, good sleep, and daily spiritual readings. THAT has enabled me to thrive instead of survive.
Recovery has blessed me with the AA Promises (pg 83, AA Big Book):
“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.”
And I am grateful every day. One day at a time.
May you find Recovery that works for you. If you haven’t.